Edgar T. Davies to Jane Addams, December 21, 1912

Department of Factory Inspection

December 21, 1912.

Miss Jane Addams,
Hull House,
Chicago, Ill.

My dear Miss Addams:

Through the unfortunate controversy which arose between Judge Gemmill's court and this Department last week, my attention has been called to what is evidently a serious misunderstanding on the part of certain interested women, and others, as to our true attitude in enforcing the Child Labor Law, with special reference to children on the stage; and after carefully reviewing the record of the past few years concerning my actions and my attitude on the subject, I am forced to conclude that perhaps what has been printed, or what has been said, has given rise to an errouneous impression as to my real attitude.

This misunderstanding as to the workings of this Department, and the attitude of its executive officers, I fear exists and has grown in the minds of some.

I believe it would not be unbecoming in me to endeavor to correct this misunderstanding based as I believe it is, upon misinformation. I am especially anxious to correct any misunderstandings that may exist if the erroneous conclusions reached by same are likely to impair the operation, or interfere with the effective enforcement of the Child Labor Law, or any of the other laws which this Department is interested in and is earnestly endeavoring to enforce.

A lot of foolish misquoted interviews appear in the public press from time to time, and are accredited as statements of facts made by an individual or official; and it has always been my official attitude in the past to ignore such battledore misstatements; but several very flagrant cases have occurred recently and stange to say, have been accepted as facts by some people who are directly interested in the proper conduct of this Department and the proper enforcement of the laws charged to it for enforcement. This was manifest to Judge Gemmill, who since has corrected the false impression gained; and I feel impressed with the fact [page 2] that it is my duty to make some effort to establish the truth, and this I will endeavor to do. I know that I have been seriously misunderstood, and those good people that have misjudged me in my actions because of limited information secured by them, may have judged, from their point of view, in all sincerity, but they have judged me and my actions on the basis of limited and piece-meal information and consequently, they have judged wrong. I have tried since I have been in office, to be frank, and still reserve to myself the task of making my wishes known, standing responsible for everything I have done or said while in office. This privilege I must necessarily grant others, but people can differ and differ frankly and honestly, and get good results; but if they misunderstand each other, sometimes it hurts the cause in which each is engaged. I know that you do not desire to misjudge, nor can I believe that you understand my position thoroughly. I have ever prized your personal friendship and such encouragement in the official performance of my duties as I have, in years gone by, received in my work.

I believe it would be for the good of the cause in which each is interested, if we had a short conference, or exchange of views, for the Department and its work have developed wonderfully, and I feel that we are consequently somewhat out of touch. The results that we have obtained speak for themselves, and there has been such a change in the conditions, in the growth of the present Department, that there is material here of great interest to every worker in the field of social service.

I do not wish in any sense to say a word, give an expression, or assent to any proposition that in the slightest way would give offense to anyone. I am earnestly endeavoring to bring together all our forces, with the hope that if such a result is possible, the service will be improved, with the natural resultant improvement in the welfare of those whom we are trying to aid.

Isn't it a fact that sometimes misunderstandings between various people, organizations, etc., with an official in office lead to a greater misunderstandings and sometimes hurt the cause in which each is sincerely and earnestly working. This is indeed unfortunate and I feel it my obligation to make an effort to straighten out what seems to me to be a tangle, and I need your services and your aid. I owe a duty to others beside myself, and to the administration which I serve. I owe a duty to the public, and, to all persons interested in this character of work, an especial duty, and I propose to discharge it, as I have always endeavored to discharge my duty, as I saw it. [page 3] 

Miss Addams, on the one hand you stand as a leader of the forces among the good women and men of this State, who have sought, and are seeking, to establish improved conditions for the working classes. On the other hand, I stand as the official who administers a great many of the laws which have been enacted for this purpose, and I therefore believe, as stated, that a conference for a review of the efforts of this Department, and for a better understanding between it and its friends, is advisable; and if agreeable to you, I shall be pleased to have you give me your opinion as to such a proposed conference, and whom you would care to invite;-- or, would it in your opinion be best for us to have an informal talk between ourselves.

I will call on you if you wish, but would suggest that, since you have not seen our new and enlarged quarters, which have been planned especially for the effective administrative work of factory inspection, I should be pleased to show you the new Department, and confer with you here.

Sincerely yours,

Edgar T. Davies [signed]

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